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John N. Duvall
In May of this year William J. ("Joe") Palmer stepped down as editor of MFS in order to devote more time to several writing projects. During his three and a half years editing the journal, he performed the initial screening of more than 700 essays that came across his desk. While maintaining the high quality of the general issues, Professor Palmer also sought out guest editors who would expand the range of material that MFS considers. Special issues that appeared while Joe was editor include "Native American Literature," "South African Fiction after Apartheid," and "Working-Class Fictions." I wish to express my deep appreciation to Joe for the way that he always modeled the roles and responsibilities of editorship. A better mentor one could not have asked for. Joe will continue to serve MFS as a member of the Purdue Advisory Board.
Joining us as Associate Editor is Siobhan Somerville, whose expertise in the intersections of race and sexuality will be featured in a forthcoming special issue that she will edit. The call for papers for "Queer Fictions of Race" may be found at the end of this issue.
As I begin editing the journal, the critical landscape looks much different than it did when the first issue of MFS appeared in February of 1955. The editorial mission at that time was to provide a forum for criticism on American, British, and European fiction since 1880. If only because nearly half a century has passed since then, the scope of the journal would have changed under the sheer weight of history. The next issue we will publish, "Postmodernism and the Globalization of English," [End Page 721] guest edited by Michael Bérubé, is but the latest instance of how postcolonialism has become a vital part of MFS.
Emphasizing historical, theoretical, and interdisciplinary approaches to canonical and emerging narratives, MFS today encourages the examination of fiction's place in modern culture. When I screen a submission, I am at least as interested in what the essay has to say about the social fictions of identity and nation as it does about the more traditional fictions we call novels. In this regard, the "modern fiction" that authorizes our "studies" has profoundly changed since the early days of MFS, even when the names identified in some of our recent titles are as traditional as Woolf, Joyce, or Faulkner.
The present issue, then, serves as a useful index of what MFS wishes to promote. The material covered ranges from the canonical (Conrad, Joyce, and Wharton) to texts that challenge the canon (Sandra Cisneros and Stella Gibbons), from the early modernist (Conrad) to cyberpunk (William Gibson), from essays focusing on narrative poetics in Joyce to those focusing on queer identity in Isherwood. Like Don DeLillo's Bill Gray in Mao II, we may at times wonder about what role is left for fiction in an age in which the terrorist's ability to shape mass consciousness has eclipsed that of the novelist's. But the engaged and engaging criticism that is daily submitted to MFS gives me hope that the question of the novel's cultural work is still vital.